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September & October Short Takes

Glenn Cannon "Clockwork," 2009 Australian guitarist Glenn Cannon'’s second solo album, "Clockwork," is truly a Jazz/Rock tour de force, featuring brilliant solos supported by sophisticated compositions. Joining this extraordinary guitarist are Luke Howard on keyboards, Gavin Pearce on bass, Tim Wilson on woodwinds, and Danny Farrugia on drums. Javier Fredes and Jon-Erik Andreassen also contribute inspired percussion and innovative drum programming. Cannon has truly assembled an ensemble that represents the cream of his nation’s musical talent. While the compositions are complex and intricate, they never lose focus of the leader’s innate musicality. His egalitarian use of electric and acoustic guitars creates interesting and alluring textures. On the dramatic "Edvard Munch" the guitarist pays tribute to the expressionistic painter by creating beautifully conceived legato lines reminiscent of Allan Holdsworth and Bill Connors. Cannon’'s impassioned acoustic playing ranges from the heartfelt lyricism of "Scarlette" to the fiery staccato flurries found on "Bomber." The album closes with the surrealistic title track showcasing the group’s ability to create rich, dense, soundscapes. Glenn Cannon's "Clockwork" is a refreshing and innovative contribution to the Jazz/Rock genre and is highly recommended for listeners who enjoy intricate compositions, masterful playing, and imaginative improvisations. © James Scott

Les Copeland "Don't Let the Devil In," 2010 Les Copeland’s "Don’t Let the Devil In" is a powerful testament to the universal appeal and undying power of the blues. Joined on two tracks by friend and Grammy award winning blues legend Honeyboy Edwards, Copeland and company take us on an emotional tour of the hills and valleys, seasons and weather of his blues and jazz inspired original compositions. The most haunting track is"Crying for an Angel," a lament written for Copeland’s first daughter who passed away not long after entering this world. With tracks like "Ry Cooder," a bottleneck slide instrumental celebrating the work of the great musician, and the jazzy "Ginseng Girl," the listener can’t lose. Copeland is a spectacular guitarist. © Chip O'Brien

Matt Millecchia "Silhouette of a Season," 2008 The supporting cast surrounding Matt Millecchia on "Silhouette of a Season" is impressive, including Will Ackerman as producer and musician as well as the late T-Bone Wolk on accordion and bass, just to name two of many. Millecchia offers 12 original compositions that revolve around his flat picking and rhythmic strumming, blending harmoniously with the cello, violin, bass, accordion, flute and percussion that support, enhance and often carry the melodies. No killer licks or acoustic high wire act here, rather Millecchia creates grooves and sonic dimensions that capture the spirt of Ackerman's Windham Hill days. © James Filkins

Roland Chadwick "The Wild Romantic," 2010 The original songs featured on Australian-born Roland Chadwick's "The Wild Romantic" are heavily steeped in the Spanish classical tradition, but are far from tired. In fact, they abound with the colorful turns and ornaments often seen in the realm of Brazilian guitar; the two movements of his "Song and Dance No. 3" are redolent of Villa-Lobos. The entirety of the album is crisply executed, and proves a testament to the composer and performer's versatility within the genre. Chadwick's "Serenade," for example, seems to resound with its delicacy, while the "Danza" that immediately follows is a lush, toe-tapping piece rich with dynamism. Even those listeners who are not especially wild or romantic should be able to find something to love about this group of well-written tunes. © Ryan Fark

Mercy Creek "Another Place to Start," 2008 With a name like Mercy Creek you might expect bluegrass, and while there’s a banjo and jaw harp on the light hearted "Green Beans," this is definitely not twangy mountain music. Cheryl Nystrom holds it down on her hooky rhythmic acoustic guitar while Jim Ball keeps it straight with tasty percussion. They co-wrote all of the songs, Cheryl’s supple voice carrying the accessible lyrics and singable melodies. Most of the songs fall into the folk-rock or Americana category with some leaning heavily in another direction, like the blues-inspired "Cost of Living," a bitter tune about a guy who’s played the fool for "Chasing all those pretty girls." Very enjoyable album. © Jamie Anderson

Kolosko • Dimow Duo "Border Crossings," 2010 When highly trained, talented and innovative musician/composers with broad repertoires get together the results can often push the borders of accepted musical genres (jazz, classical, world, gypsy). "Border Crossings," the aptly titled second release from critically acclaimed guitarist Nathan Kolosko and flutist Carl Dimow offers three distinctive sets of musical adventures. An original arrangement of Graden Powell's "Afro Sambras" opens the CD, followed by two original repertoires composed by Dimow and Kolosko. The interplay between Kolosko's impassioned fretwork and Dimow's mesmerizing work of flute and bass flute is often magical. In "Border Crossings" The Kolosko-Dimow Duo has created a musical reverie. © James Filkins

Andy Cohen "Built Right on the Ground," 2010 With tons of style, a well-used voice and an astounding familiarity with early folk/blues, Memphis-based guitarist Andy Cohen sounds as if he’s been playing on somebody’s front porch for generations. But Cohen doesn’t just perform these tunes, he lives in them -- and if his guitar chops and sense of meter may raise an eyebrow, they’re just as likely to raise a smile, because this collection is home-cooked food for the soul. A musical revivalist, Cohen exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge and appreciation of street busker forms of yesteryear (and many thanks to excellent liner notes from William Lee Ellis). While Cohen brings to mind a more casual Doc Watson as he croons through the title track and "Miss the Mississippi and You," he brings some energetic piano pounding to the table as well. Most memorable of this 15-track collection might be the rather impromptu-sounding duet with pal Kurt Anderson on Jimmie Rodgers’ "My Old Pal;" he also teams up vocally with his wife, Larkin Bryant, on the fine "Tennessee Blues." Gems by Woody Guthrie, Memphis Minnie and Jelly Roll Morton also find new life in Cohen’s avuncular take on Americana. © Fred Kraus

The Arboreal Quartet 2009 It’s a warm sunny Sunday afternoon. Or perhaps a cool, rainy Saturday in fall. Or, maybe a sunrise with mist and dew gently covering the green outside your window. When you listen to the new CD by The Arboreal Quartet, it could be any of these occasions. The Montreal-based quartet is led by John Wrinch Williams, who also wrote all the songs on the disc. While the band has guitar, bass, and drums, what sets it apart aurally from other ensembles is Williams’ playing of a traditional Indian instrument, the Sarode (think of a sitar without frets). The music itself has multiple influences from jazz, roots, and because of the Sarode, Indian classical music. The guys are all fine players, and they work well together. No one is trying to flash dominant brilliance here, but they blend and meld as all good ensembles do. The music is in no hurry, but ebbs and flows, carrying the listener to that rare place of quiet listening, uncovering graceful melodies along the way. "Shift" meanders, winding down a rolling stream or on a country road. "Mountain" begins like a soft jazz piece, but changes pace midway through into another gear. The drone of the Sarode takes over the melody on "Dang," passing to guitarist Tom Eliosoff, then back to the dreamy tones of the Sarode. "Snap" is a perky little shuffle, that, when the Sarode plays, brings to mind all those Bollywood films. The 10-song CD ends with "Dee," showcasing each player in a fitting ending to a fine recording of very nice tunes. © Kirk Albrecht

Steve Unruh "Challenging Gravity," 2010 Progressive rock/folk wizard Steve Unruh sculpts an impressive soundscape on "Challenging Gravity," his eighth solo indie collection. His talent virtually bursts from the speakers – unfolding layer upon layer after layer throughout his eight original tracks. Unruh, whose day job is electronic engineer and music composer for Hasbro Toy Group, takes on spiritual exploration in this masterful work: the meaning of existence, the question of a higher power and the conscious life. Fortunately, he’s as gifted a composer as he is a performer, and acquits himself with grace, power and passion. More than a hint of the MidEast flavors this work, which features Unruh’s stunning and impeccable classical and jazz-inflected guitar. He also proves adept at violin, drum kit, bass, and has a heck of a voice. He’s not bad on flute, either. Two of the tracks are instrumentals: the quiet beauty of "Bluebird" might bring you close to tears, while the interplay of guitar and violin on the multi-sectioned "The Path to Alhambra" will leave you shaking your head in wonder. Most of these songs sound epic in scope, like a film soundtrack with high production values. One clocks at 11:07, with two others at 7 minutes, allowing Unruh to develop his musical themes. Unruh lists Yes, Rush and Coltrane as favorite influences; while those footprints are evident, Unruh’s work defines its own genre. With its elements of metal combined with alternating segments gentleness and intensity, this disciplined, thematic album carefully explodes into your brain. © Fred Kraus

Fresh Breath "The Speed of Sound," 2010 Some artists fire all of their guns at once with their first release, to thereafter dwindle in a denouement never quite as inspired as their earliest creations. Other artists show a spark of genius early on which foreshadows a musical career later igniting with age and experience. That "spark" for Fresh Breath is the tune "Yellow & Blue." Katie Griffin's doubled and bluesy harmonies nicely complement Josh Pascoe's raga-like guitarwork on this track, the lyrics perhaps prescient: "It's my life, and it's my time, to make it all come true." © Alan Fark

Duo Orfeo 2010 Joseph Ricker and Jamie Balmer discovered their musical compatibility in 2001 while both studying under Phillip de Fremery, who was himself a student of Andrés Segovia and Oscar Ghiglia. They have since performed together avidly, officially joining forces in 2007. This partnership has culminated in "Duo Orfeo," released last summer. While on this first album they prove themselves comfortable with a mélange of eras and styles, the eponymous Duo seem most in their element with their renditions of some of the minimalist and miniaturist fare of Mompou and Satie, which is sensitively performed in a meditative style that serves to heighten the effect of the simple, incantatory lines. The pair of Chopin "Nocturnes" that close the album are almost equally alluring. With their already apparent talent for interpreting both classic and impressionistic forms, this young duo is sure to garner even further praise in the years to come. © Ryan Fark

Here's some other great music we received this month:

Mortimer Nelson - Slow Times
Ron Dalton - Don't Like the Sun
Sándor Szabó & Kevin Kastning - Returning
Katie Geddes - We Are Each Other's Angels
Andy Mason - Contra Costa
Friction Farm - Every Mile is a Memory
Ken Biersbach - Brand New Clothes

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